A Wednesday report from Business Insider laid out the doubts that have arisen regarding the bombshell story from the New York Post, which alleged that Democratic nominee Joe Biden knew about his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business deals.
In a story that has since stoked a firestorm of controversy after tech giants attempted to suppress it, the New York Post published an April 2015 email that is alleged to have been sent by Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Addressed to Hunter Biden, who sat on Burisma’s board of directors at the time, the email thanked him for setting up a meeting between Pozharskyi and then-Vice President Biden.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads. Another from 2014 asked Hunter “advice on how you could use your influence” for the good of the company.
According to Business Insider, “the most glaring questions” about the story revolve around the authenticity of the emails and the means by which the New York Post obtained them. Seemingly contradictory information from the story’s major source, as well as the involvement of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has also led some to question the story’s reliability.
The New York Post reported that the emails were obtained from the hard drive of a water-damaged MacBook Pro that was dropped off by an unknown person in April 2019 at a computer repair store in Delaware. The person who dropped off the laptop “never paid for the service or retrieved it or a hard drive on which its contents were stored, according to the shop owner, who said he tried repeatedly to contact the client.”
The New York Post did not identify the owner of the computer repair store, but reporters from The Daily Beast later identified him as John Paul Mac Isaac and tracked him down at his store in Wilmington, Delaware.
During a nearly hour-long interview with The Daily Beast, Mac Isaac confirmed that he was the source of the laptop and reportedly offered conflicting accounts of its timeline. “Throughout the entire interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that reached out to him,” The Daily Beast reported. “At one point, Isaac claimed that he was emailing someone from the FBI about the laptop. At another point he claimed a special agent from the Baltimore office had contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the device’s existence. At another point, he said the FBI reached out to him for ‘help accessing his drive.'”
The Daily Beast also made note of the fact that Isaac is “an avid Trump supporter” who believes the president’s impeachment was a “sham” and chalks up fear for his life to the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
The New York Post also reported that in addition to giving the hard drive to the FBI, Mac Isaac gave a copy of the hard drive to Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello. It was Bannon, they said, who first told them about the hard drive’s existence last month, and Giuliani who provided them with the hard drive earlier this week.
In an extensive in-depth Twitter thread, Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies who specializes in disinformation, urged caution regarding the story and offered reasons why he believes it exhibits characteristics of disinformation.
“This here is highly suspicious behavior,” Rid tweeted, who claimed he is not a Biden supporter and does not even vote in the United States. “Especially when viewed in the context of a political campaign. Creative, anonymous, credibility-generating, somewhat plausible. Exactly how a professional would surface disinformation and potentially forgeries.”
“Note that photos, which appear to look genuine, could be there simply to add credibility to forged emails surfaced along with the photos. This would be a standard tactic in disinformation operations,” Rid continued, adding, “Bottom line: *every individual little fact*—every email, every detail mentioned in an email—must be verified when data is surfaced in such a suspicious way, not just one piece of information, say a photo. It appears that The New York Post did not do that here.”
Bottom line: *every individual little fact*—every email, every detail mentioned in an email—must be verified when data is surfaced in such a suspicious way, not just one piece of information, say a photo. It appears that The New York Post did not do that here.
— Thomas Rid (@RidT) October 14, 2020
“I see a lot of people rushing to judgement on this story, on both sides of the aisle, claiming to know what’s really going on. That is a mistake,” Rid said. “The whole point of this thread was to say: be careful, withhold judgment. Did Hunter Biden himself hand in the laptop? Still unclear. Did the machine contain hacked files? Unclear. Were forgeries added to the mix? Unclear. Was a foreign intelligence service involved? Also unclear[.]”
The whole point of this thread was to say: be careful, withhold judgment. Did Hunter Biden himself hand in the laptop? Still unclear. Did the machine contain hacked files? Unclear. Were forgeries added to the mix? Unclear. Was a foreign intelligence service involved? Also unclear
— Thomas Rid (@RidT) October 15, 2020
The veracity of the New York Post report has arguably been overshadowed by the efforts of tech giants Twitter and Facebook to suppress its reach among their users. During a brief Thursday press conference, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced their intention to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer for what they described as “actively interfering” in the presidential election.
“Let me be clear,” Cruz said. “I don’t know if those Post stories are true or not. Those are questions Vice President Biden should answer. But Twitter and Facebook and Big Tech billionaires don’t get to censor political speech and actively interfere in the election. That’s what they’re doing right now. So, on Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee, the full committee, will be voting on subpoenas to subpoena Jack Dorsey to come before our committee.”